Oof, it has been a HOT MINUTE since I wrote a book review. I wanted to start with one of my own favorites but, to be honest, my memory wouldn't serve me well enough to them justice 😅 So, until I have enough time to sit and properly re-read one of them, we will begin with my latest read.
I'll begin by saying that this book was just about what I expected it to be, in a good way. It wove together complex relationships between mothers and daughters, sisters, spouses, and even touched on the special needs some children have when navigating difficult relationships. But what mattered most to me was that this book delivered it's message in a very particular way.
The Wise Women by Gina Sorell reminded me of something important
I picked this book up at a little library. The first novel I've read since my cataract surgery. I had literally forgotten that I could just read for leisure now. I had forgotten what it was like to just slow down and settle into the manilla pages of another world. The pain of reading with dual cataracts for a 5 years meant that my passion had waned and I was mostly reading for the sake of work and using television to relax.
This wasn't the best book to reignite my spark for the written word BUT it has become a cozy companion. And it's reminded me that sometimes we need different types of books in our lives at one time - or, at least, I do... but maybe that's my ADHD talking 🤷🏻♀️
Some books are meant to be read quickly - devoured because our insatiable appetite for more has us flipping pages at warp speed.
Some books are meant to teach and educate.
Some are meant to slow us down and are best read in bits and pieces over the course of a month.
I always had at least these three types of books on the go at one time.
One that I couldn't wait to get more of (and certainly couldn't read before bed if I actually intended to sleep).
One to learn something new for work or life (generally nonfiction).
And one for snuggling up to before bed or in a quiet afternoon moment with a coffee in hand.
The Wise Women by Gina Sorell was this third type of book for me.
"Wise Women" explores the complexities of adult mother-daughter relationships
I lost my mom before I was really old enough to have an adult relationship with her. I was still figuring out who I was and finding my way in the world. OK, I'm still kind of figuring that out 😅 but the truth is that I think our relationship would have been a lot different if we'd had the chance to grow it beyond my adolescence.
I used to have these ideas of what our relationship would have been like. Some fairy-tale picture of the perfect bond and the perfect experiences. The older I get the more I know that wouldn't have been true. And that's OK. Relationships are complicated. There would have been things for us to work out. Apologies on both sides of that fence. But still many laughs and a lot of love.
Reading this book brought a bit of longing to my heart. As I watched Wendy Wise and her daughters work their way through their relationships I longed for the chance to apologize to my own mom and to offer her forgiveness for the moments she was simply doing her best.
As a step-mom, I also appreciated Wendy's experiences in the book. I felt for her doing the best she could with what she knew and what she had. And it reminded me of something my own mom left in a letter for me before she passed, "I might not have always done the right thing. But I did what got everyone through." And sometimes that has to be good enough.
Complex, well-crafted characters
I appreciate that Sorell went deep with her characters and built them into conflicted three-dimensional people. It's easy for authors to build people to fit stereotypes or to play out their own frustrations about people they view as one-dimensional in their own lives. But people AREN'T one-dimensional.
Whether we agree with the way they do things or not, most people are doing what they think is right based on the way they were raised, the things they've experienced, etc. I like the way that Sorell explores this complexity in her characters while simultaneously showing them learn about this complexity, themselves.
Good dialogue but missing emotional descriptions
I love a book with good dialogue. I'm the kind of person who will skip over other thigs and jump to the interpersonal interactions in a book, SO, it's very important to me that these parts of the book were engaging and believable.
It can't all be good though, right?
And nothing is perfect.
For me, this book lacked in the emotional descriptions of the characters during their interactions. There were points where I couldn't tell if someone was angry and yelling or subdued and tearful - either emotional state would have made sense in the scenes. Descriptions like "tearfully," "her body quaking with anger," etc. were missing from pivotal interactions which DID take away from the experience for me a little bit.
⭐⭐⭐⭐ Overall (out of 5)
Authors put their hearts and souls into their work so you'll be hard-pressed to see me give anything below 3 stars unless it's something obviously slapped together by AI.
This book started a little slow but managed to make me care about the characters and was exactly what I expected for my morning coffee, just before bed reading - the comfort book that takes me into my softer side.